by Chris Scott
reviewed on X360
Difficulty of standing out
The XBOX Live Arcade (XBLA) has a stigma that the games on the network are all short jump-in-and-play experiences that are for the most part inexpensive and of throw-away quality. Every once in a while a game or two will jump out of that mould, however, including such titles as Geometry Wars, Puzzle Quest etc... but for the most part the games stay in their mould. Microsoft would certainly love to have the stigma associated with XBLA completely removed and have the Live Arcade become a method for digital distribution of more substantial games. But they have placed the stigma on themselves and truly innovative games released through the service may not reach their audience because of the expectations put on the system. Hopefully this will not happen to Braid.
Innovation out of classic themes
Braid is a two-dimensional, side-scrolling, puzzle platformer. That description of Braid may leave you scratching your head because, truthfully, the idea of a two-dimensional, side-scrolling platformer, puzzle or not, is not exactly innovative. And that would be an entirely correct assessment. In fact, each separate part of Braid is not innovative, new or original by itself – yet, when taken as a whole, Braid is truly something special.
On the surface, Braid is a homage to Super Mario Bros.; You control Tim, a short stocky little guy who can jump on the heads of little brown monsters. Tim is on a quest to save a princess, and on his way there he will have to dodge giant carnivorous plants that sprout from big green pipes. He will do battle with a fire-breathing, spike-shelled turtle and ultimately his princess is always in another castle.
However, the similarities with Super Mario Bros. end right there because Braid isn’t about getting to the castle as soon as possible, although you can play it that way. Braid is about solving puzzles, specifically five puzzles, one each for each of the game’s main levels. Each puzzle has twelve pieces that are scattered throughout each corresponding world. The way you will solve these puzzles is what Braid is ultimately about.
Manipulate the time...
Time is the core gameplay mechanic of Braid. Tim has the power to rewind time, a la Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but it expands upon that idea in many ways. Each level has a different time mechanic and it is the time manipulation that has created the puzzles and will ultimately help you in solving them. In one level time is tied to Tim’s movement, meaning moving forward makes time go forward while moving backwards rewinds it, while in another level Tim has the ability to slow down time in specified areas. Mastering the time mechanic for each level is essential to advancing in Braid - yet solving the puzzles still will not be a cakewalk.
Simply put, Braid is hard. Each puzzle is interestingly unique and there are some puzzles that are going to tax both your mind and gaming skill. You may think you finally understand how to get to a puzzle piece but actually executing it may be an entirely different matter which can lead to some very frustrating moments.
No Pros and Cons at this time